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Contributions to Theory and Comparative History of Historiography

German and Brazilian Perspectives

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Edited By Luiz Estevam de Oliveira Fernandes, Luísa Rauter Pereira and Sérgio da Mata

This book bears witness to the tightening of bonds that has been taking place among the Brazilian and the German historiographical communities in the last years. It presents a wide array of historiographical issues by various scholars: the role played by history writing in modern processes of nation-building, Alexander von Humboldt’s indirect Brazilian experience, the humanistic and methodical legacies of 19 th century German historical thinking, current perspectives in the history of concepts, and the potentials and limits of history as a means for political education.
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Erich Auerbach – Conditio humana

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The Question

Erich Auerbach (1892-1957) is known for his book Mimesis. Dargestellte Wirklichkeit in der abendlaendischen Literatur (1946) and one can say that his other works gravitate towards this work.

The book sets out to investigate nothing less than the conditio humana, but understands it as something intrinsically historical. Therefore, as something that changes over time, and the effort of analysis is to reveal the historicity [Geschichtlichkeit], which is, in equal measure, to reveal the conditio humana as it appears in different times and situations. This task, quite complex and maybe even pretentious, was carried out by Auerbach in an extremely original way, drawing on his training as a philologist and a scholar of literary works.

As the conditio humana is not something transcendent and fixed, to examine it is to track its changes. Auerbach tried to respond to this task by seeking to understand how, in various literary works, human beings somehow portrayed and set an image of man. That is, he understood that literary works exposed the way humans saw themselves in a certain time and historical situation. Enlisting various images of man that change over time, he wrote a sort of history of the conditio humana, understood as a history of the different ways that human beings saw themselves and the world in which they lived, portraying them in literary works.

It can be argued that the conditio humana is not to be confused with the image...

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